With commanding skill, Thomas R. Martin tells the remarkable and dramatic story of how a tiny, poor, and threatened settlement grew to become, during its height, the dominant power in the Mediterranean world for five hundred years. Encompassing the period from Rome's founding in the eighth century B.C. through Justinian's rule in the sixth century A.D., he offers a distinctive perspective on the Romans and their civilization by employing fundamental Roman values as a lens through which to view both their rise and spectacular fall. Interweaving social, political, religious, and cultural history, Martin interprets the successes and failures of the Romans in war, political organization, quest for personal status, and in the integration of religious beliefs and practices with government. He focuses on the central role of social and moral values in determining individual conduct as well as decisions of state, from monarchy to republic to empire. Striving to reconstruct ancient history from the ground up, he includes frequent references to ancient texts and authors, encouraging readers to return to the primary sources. Comprehensive, concise, and accessible, this masterful account provides a unique window into Rome and its changing fortune.